29 years in the making, Rand Pecknold orchestrates his greatest symphony


Aidan Sheedy

Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold has 615 career wins, the highest among active NCAA Division I coaches.

Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor

 TAMPA, Fla. — It started off with midnight practices and an office crammed into a janitor’s closet. It ended with a national title and holding back tears on national television. The head coaching career of Quinnipiac’s Rand Pecknold has finally reached its summit. 

Pecknold, the head coach of the Bobcats for the last 29 seasons, had won 600+ games, reached multiple Frozen Fours and taken a hold of ECAC Hockey. The one thing he needed to cement his legacy as a legend was the national title. Boy, did he do that this past weekend. 

Overtime. 10 seconds in. Goal horn. Bedlam. 

“I’m just so proud of these guys,” Pecknold said. “We talked a lot about culture and character, but there was a lot of belief in the third period. We were so positive and we just felt like we were gonna, we were gonna score, we’re gonna tie it and we’re gonna win this game.” 

Quinnipiac hockey is entrenched in Pecknold’s blood and Pecknold is, quite literally, Quinnipiac hockey. Despite being located in a small town in Connecticut, Bobcats hockey has taken over the country. 

Take ESPN’s pre-game coaches interview, for example. When broadcaster John Buccigross asked Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko about his impression of this Bobcats team, he responded in only two words: “Rand Pecknold.” 

That nation-wide admiration among his peers is why Pecknold is considered one of the sport’s best. And in his long tenure in Hamden, this season may be his best. 

A program-record 34 wins, a CT Ice championship, a Friendship Four title, a Heroes’ Hat, an ECAC Hockey regular season title and now the long-elusive national championship trophy. It’s certainly a big step up from his 12-hour shifts as a part-time hockey coach and part-time high school teacher.

“It was a grind … we practiced at midnight, I had a teaching job so I got home from school, (I went to) my job,” Pecknold said. “I’d sleep three to six, I’d get up and go recruit because we weren’t very good … we practiced at midnight and I got home, I slept three to six … It was just survival mode.”

On Saturday, in the amount of time it took for you to read this sentence, sophomore forward Jacob Quillan found the back of the net and sent the entire Quinnipiac program into a frenzy.

On the Bobcats’ bench, Pecknold embraced his coaching staff, teary-eyed and with a grin fit for a champion. Later on the ice, his wife Nikki and his four children would join him in the celebration. 

Pecknold’s biggest supporter and biggest inspiration for the sport was his father, Wayne, who passed away in 2000. While he was not able to watch his son climb to the top of college hockey, he was definitely in the back of Rand’s head.

“Sorry, I can’t answer it,” Pecknold said, choking up in the postgame press conference. “I missed him … He’s been gone (for) a while.”

It’s fitting that Quinnipiac’s first NCAA title – ever – comes in ice hockey, the backbone of the university. Finally, the moniker of being a “hockey school” can ring true. Wins against Big 10 schools: Ohio State, Michigan and Minnesota en route to the championship just highlight the body of work that Pecknold and his staff have put into the program.

“We were D3, and we were bad D3,” Pecknold said. “You can’t even believe where we were. Some of the guys were here tonight from that first team. It’s incredible to do what we’ve done and to be where we are.”

It is common knowledge that coaches cannot win without good players and this unit of Bobcats certainly rises above the rest, both on and off the ice. 

“That’s a big part of the success of this program, is our identity and our culture,” graduate student forward TJ Friedmann said on April 7. “Doing all the little things right, buying into the plan.” 

Culture is the big word, brought up in almost every Pecknold press conference. It is the lifeblood of the national champions and that begins with the man at the helm. 

Who would have thought that the Quinnipiac College Braves – a Division II independant team with a new head coach – would be the kings of the NCAA? Even Pecknold might not have had his aspirations that high. Regardless, he returns home a champion.

“You can’t put value on what it means for Quinnipiac University,” Pecknold said.